Feeds

Rats in the security world

Let's start with email

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Not too long ago my wife and I decided to try out a Chinese restaurant in our area we had never visited before. I was looking at the menu and my wife gasped, then laughed a bit. I looked up and she pointed out a rat crawling right under the restaurant's buffet table.

I got the waitress's attention and pointed out the rat to her. The waitress, a large Asian woman with a heavy oriental accent replied, "Oh ya' his name is Tock." She giggled a bit then walked off.

My wife and I looked at each other. She tightened her lips, trying to hold back the laughter. She nodded her head to the side and we quickly got up and walked out of the restaurant.

We got a good laugh out of it, but I couldn't help wondering how long the rat had been around before they decided to name it. I guess rats too can be pets once you get used to them around - but they are grossly out of place in a restaurant.

It turned out to be a good lesson because I began to see different kinds of rats around me all the time. The computer industry is especially full of rats. It's amazing how much we have learned to put up with. In the computer world, for example, it's not at all unusual for something to work one day and then suddenly stop working the next. And it wouldn't be that unusual if it suddenly started working again the third day.

We have been well conditioned to recognize and delete the endless stream of spam, phishing attempts, Nigerian scams, and virus attacks we get every day in our inboxes. We have been so far behind for so long in the battle with computer security that we have almost forgotten some of the most basic insecurities that we put up with day after day.

I say it's now time we took a step back and exterminated some of these rats.

The biggest rat is email. How have we put up with our current technology for so many years? Email is by nature completely insecure. There's no guaranteed authentication of either the sender or the recipient. Most -mail traffic is never encrypted as it traverses its way around the Internet. Many email servers still don't encrypt stored messages, and there is no way to ensure that your email isn't bounced, quarantined, rejected, or forwarded on to the wrong person. In fact, there is no guarantee of delivery or notification of failed delivery at all. Furthermore, email client software is vulnerable to a variety of attacks, and of course email is still the best form of social engineering.

Email is the carrier pigeon of the internet, yet so many people rely on it for business critical and sensitive communications that are insecure and often, unreliable.

Fixing email could potentially eliminate many other security problems. And we certainly do have today the technology to make it all happen. So what's the holdup? I say that it's simply because we haven't forced people to change. And that probably won't happen until the problem has grown completely out of control. Let's be smart this time around and fix email before it grows to a bigger problem than it already is.

Many say that such an infrastructure change would take years. But guess what, this is the Internet world. We are used to changing overnight. We can handle it, trust me.

While we're at it, let's just abandon [I]all[/I] insecure network protocols. For every insecure protocol, there is an encrypted version, so why even keep the insecure protocols around? Why even install telnet when there's SSH? Why use FTP instead of SFTP? And what about instant messengers, plus IRC, NNTP, SNMP, and all the other unencrypted protocols? Boycott them all. Sure, you might say that we need to support these protocols for backwards compatibility. While that makes sense for now, we need to set some future date when we will phase these out, otherwise they will never leave us. Who wants to be backwards compatible with insecurity anyway?

High performance access to file storage

Next page: Related stories

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.